out of Five
Running time: 103
Chris Atkins' latest documentary is an entertaining, thought-provoking and necessary attack on today's celebrity-obsessed media, but it tries to pack too much in and occasionally feels rushed and incomplete as a result.
What's it all about?
Directed by Chris Atkins (who made Blair-bashing doc Taking Liberties), Starsuckers is a British documentary that uses a combination of interviews, animation, real life subjects, undercover reportage and headline-grabbing stunts to examine the various problems resulting from today's celebrity-obsessed media.
The film is divided into five different sections and examines, variously: the sociological impact on children and teenagers of the culture's current obsession with instant fame reality TV shows; the ways in which powerful media figures (Max Clifford features heavily) can buy, bury or create celebrity stories according to the demands of their clients; and the devaluation of the truth and the accompanying decline in journalistic standards when it comes to celebrity reporting, illustrated amusingly by the filmmakers planting fake celebrity stories (such as Amy Winehouse's beehive hairdo catching
fire) and seeing them run, unchecked, in the tabloid press.
Ironically, the very obsession that the film attacks ends up giving Starsuckers a welcome boost of publicity, because the fake tabloid stories wound up becoming a news item themselves due to their celebrity content. However, this backfires slightly because you expect this aspect to feature more heavily and spend most of the movie waiting for the tabloid-baiting sequence.
Atkins has assembled an impressive collection of talking heads, including Flat Earth News author Nick Davies and Max Clifford himself, in what looks like a covertly-filmed interview with all the celebrity names tantalisingly bleeped out of his gossip-tastic tales. (Who are the two politicians in the three-way? Which big-name star sleeps with under-age girls but donates massive amounts to charity to “make up for it”? Enquiring minds want to know!)
The main problem with the film is that it tries to do too much and occasionally ends up feeling rushed and incomplete as a result. It's fair to say, for example, any one of the five chapters would have made an equally fascinating film on its own.
Starsuckers is an entertaining and thought-provoking documentary but it's also vaguely depressing and in trying to cover too much, it doesn't quite stick the knife in far enough.